Bush’s faith-based plan challenged

Here are the week’s top nonprofit news stories reported elsewhere:

* The Supreme Court will decide in February whether Americans are entitled to challenge in court the activities of the White House office in charge of the Bush administration’s faith-based initiative, The New York Times reported Dec. 2. The Supreme Court will hear a case, initially blocked by a lower court, challenging government conferences that teach religious organizations how to apply and compete for federal grants. Citizens do not generally have standing to challenge federal expenditure, but Supreme Court precedent shows religion-based cases to be an exception, officials say.

* Amid debate regarding the lifespan of foundations, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced it will spend all its assets within 50 years of the death of its last trustee, The Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 1. Establishing a lifespan reflects the foundation’s desire to do “as much as possible, as soon as possible,” but some experts say the spending strategy could result in wasting money.

* The Atlantic Philanthropies, a foundation that focuses on human rights and controversial causes such as restoring voting rights for convicted criminals, has named human-rights advocate Gara LaMarche its new CEO, The Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 7. LaMarche, who is director of U.S. programs for investor George Soros’s Open Society Institute, faces the challenge of spending the foundation’s entire $4 billion endowment within 10 years, a move Atlantic announced in 2002.

* Charities are eager to demonstrate that a temporary tax break Congress provided elderly donors is a powerful incentive for giving, with the goal of having it extended or made permanent, but ignorance of the tax break and confusion over its conditions have slowed contributions, The New York Times reported Dec. 3. The measure, tucked into the Pension Provision Act adopted in August, allows donors who are over age 70-and-a-half to give up to $100,000 from their individual retirement accounts directly to charity, without incurring the taxes that withdrawing from an I.R.A. typically entails.

* Faced with the tendency for younger generations to leave their parents’ financial institutions when they inherit their wealth, the merger between the Bank of New York and Mellon Financial Corp. aims to retain the adult children of wealthy clients, The Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 7.

* John Hopkins University received a $50 million donation from trustee emeritus William Polk Carey and will use the gift to launch its first graduate school of business, splitting in two its existing School of Professional Studies in Business and Education, which is small and mainly targets part-time students, The Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 5. Johns Hopkins, based in Baltimore, says it plans to differentiate its business school from M.B.A. programs by leveraging its strengths in medicine and science and taking an interdisciplinary approach.

* Weary of holiday-season excess and motivated to use a creative approach to grassroots fundraising, an increasing number of Americans are throwing parties “with a cause,” asking for checks made out to their favorite nonprofits in lieu of receiving gifts, The Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 1.

–Compiled by Laura Newman

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